Warning! This site contains satire, cynical adult humor, celebrity gossip, and an occasional peanut by-product or two!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Evan Almighty

My favorite story in the Bible was always the one about Noah and the ark. Well, actually, that’s not true. I love Revelations better, with all the “End of Days” crap and “666” scary stuff because it makes for lots of great horror movies, but the Noah story is nice too because it has all the ingredients of a good soap opera. There’s insanity, mistrust, a natural disaster, reconciliation, and the promise of a Guiding Light to better Days of Our Lives for The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless. And you know there must have been a LOT of restlessness going on in that boat with so many animals crammed together in such a non-environmentally correct space designed to accommodate the needs of each species. I hope Noah stocked up on Glade air freshener strips before he started his cruise.

I always got in trouble with the nuns when this story came up in catechism classes because I’d ask what I considered pertinent questions, like what did the animals eat. If Noah put two of every species on board to mate later and repopulate the world he couldn’t lose any of the animals, but he still had to feed them all. That meant the lions, and tigers, and bears (oh my!) had to eat meat, and since Noah wasn’t going to let them eat the giraffes or the gazelles, the only thing on board that there were more than two of were people. Did Noah feed those last minute boarders to the animals as a “joke’s on you for ridiculing me” sort of punishment? It’d serve them right. I hate stragglers and those wishy-washy types that can never commit to anything until the last minute. Geez, what does it take, a flood on your butt to get you to make a move?

Well, the nuns never did answer my question, but I had lots of time to think about it staring at the
corner where they inevitably stuck me. I think it was here that I first developed my resentment of penguins, a malady that first sent me to therapy, but that’s a whole other story. When I wasn’t thinking about penguins or nuns and their similarities as vicious, snapping, and squawking little bundles of overzealous black and white hostility, I pondered how I would handle it should God ever show up on my doorstep one day and ask me to build Him a boat.

Nowadays, I’d probably be more likely to believe it was a Her who would be doing the asking because God, it seems to me, would have to be of a feminine nature to have created a world filled with calla lilies, chocolate éclairs, and Clay Aiken, but in the new movie
Evan Almighty, director Tom Shadyac (Dragonfly) obviously had another vision. As with his previous film in this vein, Bruce Almighty, Shadyac pictures God in the human countenance of veteran actor Morgan Freeman (Lucky Number Slevin). I can live with that. I think most women think of Morgan Freeman as at least a small “g” god anyway. There is something remarkably charismatic about him, and even at 70, he has a radiant twinkle in his eye that is magnetic, almost pulling you towards him. It’s just too bad God is only a supporting role in Evan Almighty, although He does get some good lines. On the other hand, the part of Evan is played by comic genius du jour Steve Carrell, hot off his stints on tv’s “The Daily Show” and his own “The Office” as well as his big screen runaway success The 40 Year Old Virgin. Obviously, everyone involved in Evan Almighty has big expectations for this film since Carrell is in the lead and he is currently riding the gigantic wave of fame where Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams, and a host of others have crested and since washed out. Nobody is mentioning that Evan Almighty was originally meant to be a sequel to 2003’s Bruce Almighty, which starred then-hot Jim Carrey. Carrell had only a small part as a nuisance at work to the title character, but since Carrey seems to have fallen from grace in the public’s view of who’s funny these days, Bruce and Carrey have been erased entirely from the script and the story reworked to center on Evan Baxter as God’s new best friend.

Poor Evan. Just as his life seems to have taken a huge turn for the prosperous, he hits a holy speed bump. He’s moved his family from Buffalo, NY to Washington, DC since he has been elected a freshman Congressman on the basis of his promise to “make a difference” for the world. What he didn’t expect was that God would take that promise so literally, and before you know it here he is, asking Evan to build him an ark. He even offers him a book, “Ark Building for Dummies” to make it easier. Needless to say, this is not a task Evan can handle surreptitiously, and so in lies the source of the comedy

The movie complicates the story of the actual boat-building exercise by introducing a second tale concerning Evan’s getting used to his life on Capitol Hill, with the wonderful Wanda Sykes (tv’s “The New Adventures of Old Christine”) cracking wise as his executive assistant and John Goodman (Cars) as a senior Congressman who takes the novice under his wing to guide him through the process of “making it” in politics. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out early on that Goodman’s Congressman Long is as weasely as he is stout and somehow his dealings are going to collide with the completion of the ark, so it is best to just let it go and enjoy the obvious without worrying about the fact that this is turning into a soggy version of the limp version of Mr. Deeds which was based on the actually wonderfully delicious Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, which was also about a hope-filled, albeit naïve, kind-hearted optimist who comes to Washington with a dream and finds the system corrupt. And this was way before Marion Berry was Mayor!

Along for the ride with Carrell is former “Gilmore Girls” star Lauren Graham as his doubtful wife Joan. Get it. Joan… of Ark! Hahahahahaha! They don’t every make that connection in the movie, but they do stoop to some pretty obvious jokes like that one and a similar instance when God appears as a restaurant worker wearing the name tag “Al Mighty.” Groan.

Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed Evan Almighty, even more so than Bruce Almighty because this one features about a gazillion cute and clever animals in it. Think of a live action (well, CGI action enhanced) version of Over the Hedge sans the talking part of course and you’ll get the connection. Monkeys, elephants, giraffes, lions, skunks and a variety of other pairs of God’s creatures work in tandem to help what the press dubs “New York Noah” get the vessel finished before the predicted date of the coming catastrophe.

I’m not going to spoil the rest of the story for you, but suffice to say, it’s a doozy, and the expected outcome doesn’t come to pass in the expected way.

It was nice to see Carell embrace his “inner Noah” and go with the flow rather than spend too much of the film denying where the plot is meant to lead him. It did seem like writer Steve Oedekerk (Barnyard) was setting up a bigger part of the fable to include some kind of father/son resolution of bad feelings and emotional separation that has erupted over the move from New York, and 21-year-old actor Johnny Simons (
My Ambition), realistically passing for 15, brings a way more serious tone to his scenes than any of the other cast members, perhaps in anticipation of this scene. He is a definite cutie, but whenever he was with Evan I expected something just this side of Tennessee Williams to come out. If such a confrontation and glorious father and son reunion was written and filmed it didn’t make the final cut. Suddenly Dylan just seems to have gone from morose crabby-ass to model boy scout overnight. Maybe there really are miracles!

Overall, the movie is a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours at the
Essex Cinemas. The laughs are plenty, the plot won’t hurt your brain, and the animals are plentiful. Oh, and there’s Morgan Freeman as God. I’d go see any movie he’s in. There’s not too many actors I’d give that endorsement to. At least not those who keep their clothes on anyway.

No comments: